By Adelaide Mazwarira The real names of the four women highlighted in this article* have…
This is the time to fly, to create, to investigate, to listen, to refresh, to reinvent together.
Twenty plus years ago, JASS was born! Determined to go against the grain and create a movement-oriented alternative to the NGO model, our founders named us Just Associates – with a logo to communicate the double meaning of humility with strength, given our deep commitment to liberation and justice.
As we wrap up 2022, we look forward to celebrating our journey with you – where we have come from, all we have accomplished, and where we need to go. Like all journeys, milestones invite reflection and learning. It is in this moment that we have both invited bold questions and conversations about what is needed from a global feminist movement strengthening organization in these times and unleashed bold imaginings of what that future could look like for JASS.
We engaged over 140 people from our larger community to help us review our feminist movement building (FMB) work as well as our organisational vehicle. We have emerged from this process with a refreshed picture of who and what we are, what we have learned, what we need to leave behind, and more importantly, what we need to carry with us into the next chapter of JASS.
We are inspired, challenged, and immensely grateful for the opportunity to, in the words of the review team, “sit on the ground and listen … draw conclusions and make strategic choices to better position the organisation for this new era …”
I am proud to share what we have learned and how this will shape our organisational and strategic direction moving forward.
Our political roots and commitments are in the majority world. JASS grew from deep roots in liberation struggles and movements in the majority world and specifically in Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, and Mesoamerica. Today, we remain deeply linked to activists on the frontlines of crises and at the forefront of change: Indigenous women, land defenders, sex and garment workers, young women, LBTQ+ activists, HIV+ women. Our staff, advisors, and Board are from these very communities, which strengthens political trust and our ability to provide relevant movement accompaniment over time.
Our shared political project affirmed: FMB is the heart of our work because we believe that the movements women build come from the change they want, and that the change women want is made possible by the movements they build. Our feminist movement strengthening takes the form of sustained work with community-based activists, organizations and networks, to support and develop effective movement leadership, alliances, and strategies. The foundation of our approach is feminist popular education (FPE) – a practice of collective learning and political development that catalyzes feminist leadership, political clarity, alliances and action. While we develop and adapt a variety of FPE methodologies to speak to specific contexts and needs, all processes begin with women’s lives and experiences of power and inequity. This builds common ground and shared analysis – a foundation for the organising, solidarity, collective power and resources needed to support and sustain movements.
Our thought-leadership is as relevant as ever: JASS recognizes the power of knowledge in contributing to transformation and change. Since our inception, our cutting edge analysis, tools and publications have been a core offer to the world. Our work on power – both understanding it and transforming it – informs all our approaches to change. Our power analysis framework is widely used in different movement spaces and has influenced how organisations and funders think about and respond to critical issues of our time. Staying true to our roots as a go-to-resource on the latest thinking and analysis from the majority world, we plan to incubate and generate new kinds of knowledge from practice that can influence debates, policy and funding priorities, as well as harness art and popular culture to help shift narratives as a key part of movement work.
JASS is bigger than a team of staff, we are a community of practice: Our greatest asset has always been who we are: a diverse community of multi-regional, multi-generational and multi-cultural activists, scholars and popular educators with an extraordinary combined base of political experience and knowledge. Since the beginning, this community of practice has contributed their brilliance to the thinking and strategies that guide our work, enabling us to be much more than a staff. In our next phase, we will reactivate the vital role of this community to enrich and guide JASS’ work.
Less is more, … and strategic: The enormous impact of Covid, and the intensified crises and demands on JASS, our staff and partners’ brought questions of pace, care (heart, mind and body), and organisational infrastructure to the fore. Strengthening JASS requires deliberately cultivating an organisational culture that is both impactful and sustainable – strategic, creative, focused, and affirming. As we move into greater alignment and integration across JASS, we are committed to strengthening and refining our organisational ecosystem and structure so that it is both decentralised and agile, but also highly collaborative and interdependent, anchored by more distributed leadership and streamlined information flows that allow us to fully step into our power and potential to meet the demands and opportunities of this time.
We end the year energised and excited for our next steps. Join us in 2023 as we celebrate where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. We would not be JASS without you. Here is to the next 20 years!
Executive Director, JASS